Wednesday, December 13, 2006

OR Right to Life and Their Culture of Death

I wish I could find it now, but in a piece done by the AP's Portland affiliate shortly after the election, the reporter chronicled another tough beatdown handed to the Oregon pro-life community, stymied yet again on what many states consider a reasonable burden for pregnant women, parental notification. There wasn't much in the way of hard news in the article, but it did contain an amusing quote from OR Right to Life Director Gayle Atteberry. Trying in a buck-up-the-troops way to say something good about the movement, she asserted that pro-life causes were the reason the number of abortions had dropped in Oregon over the last 8 years. I had to laugh--what did they think did it, abstinence-only education, some grisly photos and a lot of prayer?

Actually, we know it's not abstinence education, as the directors of both NARAL and Planned Parenthood's Oregon chapters called me to, er, take exception to Atteberry's claim. Oregon's schools are mandated to take a comprehensive approach to public school health education, including the truism that abstinence is 100% foolproof while also making sure kids know that contraception prevents pregnancy AND disease.

Beyond education, Oregon's pro-choice advocates cite access to contraception on a low-income basis as the primary reason the state has seen a recent downturn in teen pregnancies. Further improving that access is where they say they will focus their efforts in 2007, especially with regard to the "morning-after" pill. The Merc covered this angle in their own electoral post-mortem, and Atteberry stepped right up with another over-the-top doozy:
"It absolutely infuriates me as a human being, simply because they want young girls to be able to get this without any supervision whatsoever, and I think that's an atrocity toward our young girls," Atteberry says. "All it is is an overdose, so to speak, of birth control pills. You should have a doctor's oversight because of medical needs, so why they're insisting that young girls be able to get this without any doctor's oversight is proof to me that they are not really concerned with the health of these young girls."

"Pharmacists are not doctors," she added. "And pharmacists do not have the personal relationship with a girl that a doctor has."
What does all this have to with some overwrought headline about OR-RtL's culture of death? Well, guess who's popped up again with another ridiculous quote? Gayle Attebery of course--and what's her beef this time? The froth knob is turned all the way to eleven:
"They are trying to give an aura that this is good when this is the most grisly of examples that can be given about abortion," said Gayle Atteberry, executive director of the Oregon Right to Life, the state's leading anti-abortion group. "They are taking the brains from babies." [emph mine]
Where does this quote appear? In the national news story appearing in the Washington Post Monday, about a young boy with Batten disease who is--against all odds--leaving the hospital. And what may have done the trick? Injected stem cells from an aborted fetus.

This? This is what Atteberry calls an abomination? First of all, I truly hope she was not contacted by the Post reporter and asked to comment on the boy's release, because talk about a downer for the welcome home party--hey little boy, don't you want to give some cake to the little brother who never got to live because his parents were sinners, and whose brains were injected into your skull? Can he have some cake too, huh?

That would truly be evidence of a morbid obsession with death that seems to grip the activist pro-life movement, if that were her intent. But even without the reactive vitriol, their strong opposition to medical treatment breakthroughs at the cost of fetal tissue is captured in all its hypocritical glory in articles like this. Where is the "culture of life" for the 6 year old boy? Even if you believe in the fetus as human life--as I do--can you really make no distinctions about which lives are more worth saving, when you can only save one? If this treatment is indeed what they think it is, OHSU plans to expand the treatment into a larger trial. How many of those potentially saved lives does it take to outweigh the value of a discarded human fetus?

Today's O brings another story about little Daniel Kerner, who continues to improve:
The milestones are small: More smiles, more eye contact, more words. But after years of watching Daniel lose his power to move and speak, Joanna and Marcus Kerner see a miracle. The other day, he said "OK, Mom," and the couple cried for 30 minutes. He said "Dad" for the first time in two years.
That's grisly? I call it fight-the-tears amazing. And yet Atteberry wants no part of it; she'd rather Daniel simply died like every other Batten's victim--just to protect an aborted fetus on the way to being discarded anyway.

I have one of the very strangest views of abortion anyone has ever heard, and I won't even try to get into it. Suffice to say that I understand the belief that a fetus could only ever be the miracle of human life, in prepotent form. But I take a very Darwinian turn on where to rank that miracle in the grand scheme of things. There's just no contest between the tissue of an already aborted fetus, and a living, breathing, used-to-the-planet 6 year old boy. You do get bonus points in my world for actually being born, and that's just the way it is. If Atteberry and the rest of Oregon's pro-life movement had less obsession for the sanctity of the preborn and more concern for the already-born, maybe their generally legitimate stance on the general question of abortion would seem a little less fanatical to the rest of us, before it devolves into a host of policy decisions based on the superordination of the fetus, death among the born be damned.